Bydgoszcz, Poland – Winning both 4 x 400 relays in convincing fashion kept the United States atop the medal count as the 12th IAAF World Junior Championships concluded on Sunday evening in Zdzislaw Stadium.
Texas A&M had a pair of gold medalist from the two relay victories for the U.S. squad in Jessica Beard and Bryan Miller. They both performed very well as each ran the second leg for the United States.
The Americans topped the medal chart with 17 total medals, which included 11 gold, four silver and two bronze medals.
Kenya finished second in the medal count with 11 medals (four gold, five silver, two bronze) while Germany (six gold, one silver, three bronze) and Ethiopia (two gold, three silver, five bronze) tied for third with 10 apiece.
In the team scoring of the meet, based on points for top eight finishes, the United States led with 174 points ahead of Germany’s 122 and Kenya’s 102. Rounding out the top ten countries were Russia (96), Ethiopia (86), Ukraine (60), Cuba (59), Jamaica (57), Belarus (53), and Great Britain (53). Host Poland finished 11th in scoring with 50 points.
The American women dominated the field once again the in 4 x 400. Texas A&M’s Jessica Beard split 51.1 and turned Lanie Whittaker’s (Miami, Florida) strong opening leg of 52.9 into a commanding lead with her second leg carry. Then Erica Alexander (Friendswood, Texas) and Miami’s Takecia Jameson continued the strong effort with splits of 52.4 and 53.8 to complete the victory.
In posting a time of 3:30.19, the U.S. squad was a bit slower than the prelim mark they recorded on Saturday with cooler conditions playing a hand in that fact. Still the Americans put a gap of four seconds on runner-up Ukraine (3:34.20) and Australia (3:34.32).
“Running the second leg shows another part of me,” Beard said. “I really enjoyed and I’ve never really had a chance to run it that much. I know we wanted the record today, but the conditions today were not as good as yesterday. I could even feel that on the backstretch with the wind blowing against me.
“Each year it’s been a little different for me running on the relay. In China two years ago I ran first leg, last year at Pan Am Juniors I was the last leg and this year I ran second leg. So, I’ve been put in different positions and each time it’s worked out for me.”
It was the fourth consecutive relay victory for the United States women and sixth overall in the World Juniors. Previous winners were in 1986 (3:30.45), 1994 (3:32.08), 2002 (3:29.95), 2004 (3:27.60) and 2006 (3:29.01).
During the prelims on Saturday, Beard also split 51.1 on the second leg at the U.S. squad recorded a time of 3:29.54, the third fastest junior time ever. Australia ran 3:35.22 as the runner-up team in the same heat with the U.S. while Ukraine took heat two in 3:37.12. Jamaica finished fifth in 3:38.00 and didn’t advance.
Also running on the U.S. squad in the prelims were Whittaker (53.1), Alexander (52.4), and South Carolina’s Porche Byrd (53.0).
“It means a lot to be part of the U.S. relay team,” added Beard. “I’m the oldest know, and the others are newcomers. It’s a good feeling knowing I can depend on them like they depend on me. We’re going to have each others back, regardless.”
A bit more work was needed for the American men to garner its 10th gold medal in this event at the World Juniors with a winning time of 3:03.86. It marked the fourth consecutive victory in this event for the U.S. following a six-year run from 1986 to 1996.
During the first three legs Great Britain and Germany were in contention, but Mississippi State’s O’Neal Wilder (45.4) and Washington State’s Jeshua Anderson (46.1) completed the work put in by the first two legs, Baylor’s Marcus Boyd (45.7) and Texas A&M’s Miller (46.7).
“After this long season I’m so happy to finish it with this victory,” Miller noted. “This was a great experience. It’s my first world team and I hope it won’t be my last. I ran my best today. It feels good to represent your country in an event like this.”
The British were runner-up in 3:05.82 while the German squad placed third in 3:06.47. Jamaica finished a distant fourth in 3:08.58 ahead of Poland’s 3:08.65.
In the men’s 4 x 400 prelims the Americans ran in the third heat and answered the Jamaican’s 3:09.17 from heat one as well as the 3:06.85 posted by the British in heat two with a 3:05.25. Germany finished as runner-up to the U.S. with a 3:07.35.
The men’s prelim crew consisted of Boyd (46.3), Miller (46.7), Ryan Bailey (46.1) and Christian Taylor (46.2).
“It was amazing, especially since it was the first time I’ve run on the track since I’ve been here,” said Miller after his prelim race. “With the crowd and everything, it’s just a great experience.
“I just ran smart and cruised. I wanted to give my team the lead so we’d have a good spot in the finals.”